Eden Log

Finding the restroom is the least of his problems
Franck Vestiel
Clovis Cornillac, Vimala Pons, Zohar Wexler
The Setup: 
Guy wakes up in some sort of futuristic underground compound, has to figure out where he is and what's going on.

I just adore writing movie reviews in airports! Maybe it's because there are enforced wait times that can be pleasantly passed while writing about a movie, and putting on headphones and head down into a computer is preferable to engaging with the horrific cross-section of humanity one is confronted with. I am now in Newark International Airport, which has supplied tangible evidence that New Jersey denizens are visibly less sophisticated that their New York counterparts [of course, they're also less homogenous and generic], as well as educated me that not only has Vanilla Ice left a fashion legacy, but there are some living today who adhere to it. One is also reminded of Flannery O'Connor's short fiction upon hearing the elderly woman in line for coffee scream "THEY HAVE BLUEBERRY SCONES!" as though she has just learned that a busload of orphans had been pulled safely from a river.

Okay, so Eden Log. A reader wrote to recommend this, and it sounded like fun. This is a French film that seems to be at least partially filmed in English [or they have amazing dubbing]. We open with light flashes against a black screen showing us a guy waking in a puddle in a cave. Note the subtle whoosh sound effect every time the light flashes. This goes on long enough for you to fear the entire movie will be like it, but it's not. Turns out there is actually a light flashing, it's not just the movie showing us him coming to consciousness, and he goes over to it, where he finds it in a harness on the chest of a dessicated corpse. He takes it, straps it on, and this is his new flashlight! He starts looking around, and at one point a recording comes on, a bunch of women speaking in various languages, speaking of a contract he has signed, their important work below, and that eventually they'll join everyone in paradise. By now we've also gathered enough light to glean that our protagonist is rather pleasant to look at.

His name is Tolbiac, which I don't think we find out until the end credits, and which sounds to me like a chocolate bar with crisp toffee nuggets. He wanders around until he finds a guy grown into a wall, roots and branches issuing from him. Okay, so he's probably not downstairs at Bed, Bath and Beyond. We can rule THAT out. The guy tells him that he can't believe Tolbiac made it that far, that he [tree guy] is the architect and is the one that caused whatever horrible thing happened above, and if Tolbiac wants his advice, he should kill himself. And by the way, get away from me with your questions, which are drawing the attention of whatever's making those ominous growls in the distance. The growl gets louder, then--Tolbiac wakes up in a frosted glass box. It is pulled upward so it's hanging somewhere [with the shadow of a motionless human form hanging ominously outside]. Tolbiac starts swinging back and forth by moving his body, and eventually it falls. He passes out again.

The box has broken, although Tolbiac is luckily unharmed by all that shattered glass [must have been safety glass!]. He wanders into a lab where he finds a dead scientist, and is able to see a video that gives a bit more info: Apparently the scientist made something that was intended for virtuous purposes, but some controlling agency took it and is using it for evil, and then invaded the lab and--well, look at where the scientists is now. Stone-dead on the cold floor. Tolbiac avoids some guards that are apparently looking for him, passes a chained-up humanoid mutant-thing that growls like a dog, then gets captured in a net.

He wakes in this larger cube with someone there in a white suit, hanging from the ceiling. The guy in the suit speaks in an incongrously nerdy voice, and tells Tolbiac to stay quiet, or the soldiers and monsters outside will find them. The guy hooks Tolbiac up to this plant, which perks way up and starts to grow very quickly upon receiving his blood. Personally I'm less likely to let some total stranger transfuse me with strange carnivorous plants, but what can I say, I just can't relax and go with the flow. Then the guy in the suit just wants to check something, then before you know it Tolbiac is swinging from the ceiling and the guy is leaving him there to be discovered and killed, exiting with a hasty "Sorry!"

Tolbiac escapes soon after, and ends up in an elevator with the guy who just left him to die, who isn't too delighted to see him. Tolbiac pulls off the guy's helmet and--why, it's not a guy at all, but a LOVELY LADY! And... well, you didn't think they'd be able to force a sex scene in here, did you? But you'd be wrong. Tolbiac and the sensuous scientist go at it, only we keep getting little flashes that make it look a tad non-consentual, with Tolbiac being aggressive and grunting, and it's becoming more and more apparent that he is slowly turning into one of those humanoid monsters, and occasionally is overcome by primal rage. The two of them team up for a while, making it another level up, before the woman realizes that Tolbiac raping her a bit ago introduced whatever mutation into her system, and she leaves him to go back down, presumably to avoid infecting mankind. That's really nice of her. We should send her a card.

Okay, are you ready for the stunning final revelations? Tolbiac makes it to the big control room at the top, where he soon realizes that HE is one of the security officers of the place, before he got cast down with the riff-raff. The riff-raff, in this case, are immigrants that buy into a program where they get something in return for joining, not fully aware that they are going to be fed to this tree that requires human blood in order to supply power, which it does to the nearby city. But Tolbiac's blood is somehow different, since he is of a different class. At this juncture, please take as long as you like to reflect on the serious, serious statement this film is making about immigrants supplying the literal blood that enables the lives of the richer classes in the cities, and the irony of their oppressor being reduced to their level. Please rejoin us when your mind is done reeling from the shocking implications.

Finally Tolbiac realizes that the whole thing is so, like, WRONG, and he grabs a root and, after thoughtfully removing his shirt [couldn't you have done that earlier?], jams a root into his navel, causing his own blood to go shooting through the tree. Only it is shot from above to provide the visual ambiguity that his vital fluids are shooting from, ahem, another place. We see the tree growing rapidly, then overgrowing, then finally starting to die, as Tolbiac's special blood overloads it [or something] and destroys the system fron within. We then start to see the lights of the distant city begin to go out, until finally it's all dark, and the blue light of a new dawn of human understanding glows over the city. Yay!

While it was fairly involving, and avoided being dreary and largely the same--as I feared it might be at the outset--it still ultimately comes off as quite inessential. It's just a pretty good movie to watch if you need to watch a movie. If not, you won't miss anything.

Which is not to say it's not handled well. Clovis Cornillac is good, his predicament is interesting, and little dribs and drabs of information are meted out with enough regularity to keep you intrigued. That said, the film does flirt with that point where you just give up trying to figure out the deeper message, or even what's going on, because it's not worth the effort. I had to do a little Internet research to find an explanation of what was happening, because I made it to the end of the film with only the most vague idea. What I learned didn't change my perception much, and the big message--the literal blood of immigrants is used to enable the lives of the wealthy!--is not exactly a revelation and is likely to inspire more eye-rolling than action. Still, a decent way to pass a few hours. Not that there aren't a host of other, equally valid and rewarding ways.

Should you watch it: 

If you like sci-fi and have time to kill.